No one likes feeling ripped off. And while not every car salesperson is trying to pull one over on you, plenty of unscrupulous sellers will. Buying a car is often one of the biggest purchases for a household. By following these well-kept car buying secrets, you can avoid the regret so many car buyers feel after they've already bought the wrong car at the wrong price. But first, make sure you're covered with an affordable car insurance policy.
1. You'll Be Rewarded for Research
You wouldn't buy a house without careful research and planning, and neither should you buy a car without doing your homework. As car payments often come in a close second to mortgage or rent payments, any decision you make can significantly impact your monthly budget.
Find out what kinds of cars meet your needs and budget, and compare makes and models from a variety of manufacturers. Also, be sure to price the vehicles that have caught your eye. When you go to the dealer with a binder full of research, pricing information and offers from their competitors, you're already ahead of the negotiation game.
2. They Don't Want You to Know Your Credit Score
Some dealers rely on the fact that too many consumers are unaware of their own credit histories and scores. The truly unsavory types will even misrepresent your score in order to lock you in at a higher interest rate through their financing department. When you arrive with your credit score in hand, you remove this tool from their arsenal.
You are entitled to one free credit report each year. If you have already obtained a free report, spend the $20 on a recent one. You will want to study this and be sure you have cleared up any mistakes or old accounts before you seek financing on a new car. You may even want to discuss loan options from your personal bank or lender. Using the interest rates they offer, you can often negotiate a better deal with the seller.
3. You're Actually in Charge Here
Nothing unsettles a sales shark like a confident, informed consumer. The only time car dealers' games and gimmicks work is when you are not prepared. If you walk into the showroom projecting the attitude that you can buy and sell the entire place, you will remind them you are no easy mark. This is the attitude to adopt. They're not selling you a car: you're selling them your business.
4. There Are Hidden Treasures Online
Save a little room in your binder for coupons and promotions. Most dealers these days have printable promotions all over their websites. Find as many as you can, and bring them with you to demand credit for them. This secret may not save you thousands, but it will knock a few hundred bucks off the selling price. That's a car payment, and, when used along with the other car buying secrets listed here, it will help your savings add up fast.
5. All Good Things Come to Those Who Wait
Do your car shopping on the very last day of the month. Most sales reps are eager to seal a deal at this point in their commission schedule. The vast majority of car salespeople work on quotas. The more they sell by the end of the month, the more they stand to make on commission.
But they'll never make that 30 percent mark on the total of their sales that month unless they make the quota. Your car purchase, if timed correctly, could mean the difference between an average month and an incredible month for them. They may offer you incredible incentives just so they can meet that magic number.
6. You Can Share Salesperson Incentives (If You're Crafty)
Ask what your rep stands to gain from your purchase of a specific car or truck. If the rep shares the secrets, you have a chance to share the spoils. Many times carmakers put incentives on their dealerships to sell more of a certain model. Dealerships themselves often run contests for their sales force in order to foster competition among their staff.
If you can weasel these perks from your sales rep, chances are the sales rep will even split them with you, if only you buy that car today. They'll happily forgo that $200 bonus from Ford if your sale means more commission for them.
7. You Can Drive Your Final Sale Price with the Right Passenger
These days, many car sales reps fail to tag along during the test drive. Sometimes their confidence gets the best of them, and they think they can sell you the car without actually stepping foot into the vehicle with you. Ask them to come along if they don't offer to do so initially. Then ask for an extended test drive. This is when you start to win the game of attrition. Wear them out.
During the test drive, recite a well-practiced list of relentless questions. Don't let them take control of the conversation. Car dealers are adept at keeping this part of the process emotional. "Can you just feel the torque? Wow! This baby purrs like a kitten!" They'll try to bombard you with all of the great ways this car can make you feel.
Don't let them get a word in edgewise unless it is to answer your storm of questions. Keep it about the car not how you feel behind the wheel. "What is the gas mileage again? Is this the emergency break? What is the resale value?" By the time you head back to the dealership, they'll want to cave to your every demand just to get you out of there.
8. The Longer You Wait, the More You Could Lose
The last time you bought a car, you were probably unaware of these secrets to car buying. The sales rep had you warming the chair during the back and forth to the manager’s office a dozen times, leaving you to wonder about the deal. The sales rep was probably getting an earful from the manager about the price you were offering.
Don't let the manager bully your rep into keeping firm on the price. Let the rep know you aren't playing games. If the manager won't accept your price after a few visits, threaten to walk on the deal. They've already invested half of their day on your sale. They're not going to let you leave without a car at this point.
9. The Finance Officer Is a Secret Sales Person
If you've followed these car buying secrets, you've already saved thousands of dollars. Once you're in the finance manager's office, however, get ready to feel the pressure. They'll attempt to convince you to buy extended warranties and all sorts of added "protections," such as car alarms and other add-ons.
Be sure to have them explain any warranty package in detail. Have any agreement documented and signed by a manager, not just your sales rep. Managers tend to stick around much longer than reps and you don't want your deal "lost" after your rep found more honest work.
10. It's Not Over Until You Leave
Once the ink on the purchase agreement is dry, many folks simply drive off in their new car. At this point, you're far better off than most, but you can still squeak a few more perks out of the deal. Ask for a tour of the service department. Ask to meet the manager. Then, after a friendly greeting, ask about any oil change or regular maintenance promotions that they may have going on at the time. You may just get a free service coupon.
Next, make sure the tank is full. If not, ask for a gas voucher. Dealers sell all new cars with a full tank of gas, but, sometimes, sales reps will neglect to fill up after test drives or use the gas voucher themselves.
Finally, inspect your new car thoroughly. Check the exterior for any chips or scratches, and be sure to point them out to your rep. Inspect the interior for any rips on the seats or scuffs to the dashboard. Document any minor imperfections, and be sure to have the seller document them and schedule a time for FREE repairs.
Congratulations on your new car purchase. You've just saved yourself thousands of dollars and years of regret. But don't tell your dealer we shared their car buying secrets. Our independent agents can share several quotes with you for car insurance as well - so you could continue to save big even after you've gotten all you can out of the dealership.